SHS students received a week less of required structured learning time
By Mark E. Vogler
A program audit issued last month by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) determined that Saugus High School students were short 42 hours in structured learning time over the 2017-18 school year.
“A review of documents and staff interviews indicated that all students at Saugus High School are scheduled for 948 hours of structured learning time per year, rather than the required minimum of 990 hours,” noted the final report of the “Coordinated Program Review.”
That was the most glaring of 14 deficiencies uncovered in a program review conducted last spring by a DESE team of investigators that evaluated selected criteria in the program areas of special education, civil rights and other related general education requirement and English Language learner education.
“In terms of the missing hours, we will work with the school and district to ensure that the deficiency is resolved in the future,” DESE spokesperson Jacqueline Reis told The Saugus Advocate.
Meanwhile, Saugus Public Schools Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi, Jr. said he had “no concerns about any of the findings.” “We’re working on it,” DeRuosi said in an interview.
“I view audits as a way to look at areas where we need to improve. As a school district, you’re always in a state of improvement. We will look at our procedures and methodology and make the adjustments to move the district forward,” he said.
DeRuosi added that “a lot of turnover at Central Office” may have contributed to the deficiencies cited in the DESE report. But the superintendent suggested that the report doesn’t reflect any serious issues in the School District. “There’s a lot happening that’s very positive in this district,” DeRuosi said.
Saugus Public Schools is required to submit a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) to state education officials, which was due last Friday. DESE staff will be working with Saugus school officials to make the necessary improvements to bring Saugus Public Schools into compliance.
Below are the report’s finding in the three categories.
Rating: Partially Implemented
- A review of student records indicated that Transition Planning Forms (TPFs) do not consistently include the student’s postsecondary vision or address the student’s disability-related needs.
Specifically, record review demonstrated that transitional needs for students, as documented on the TPF, are not always fully addressed as measurable post-secondary goals that are based upon age-appropriate transition assessments, training, education or employment experiences.
- A review of documents and staff interviews indicated that although the district has procedures to provide services to eligible students who attend a private school within the district’s geographic boundary whose parents reside in Massachusetts or out of state, the district does not obtain signed written affirmation that consultation with the private schools, in accordance with federal requirements, has occurred.
- At Veterans Elementary School, facilities observations and a review of student schedules indicated that the English as a Second Language (ESL) instructional space can only be accessed by passing through the speech and language therapy spaces, which creates auditory and visual distractions for students receiving speech services.
Method of Education and Other General Education Requirements
Rating: Partially Implemented
- A review of documents and staff interviews indicated that all students at Saugus High School are scheduled for 948 hours of structured learning time per year, rather than the required minimum of 990 hours.
- A review of documents and staff interviews indicated that the district publishes its local Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan (Plan) in the faculty and student/family handbooks. However, the Plan has not been updated consistent with the amendments to the Massachusetts anti-bullying law to extend protections to students who are bullied by a member of the school staff, which includes, but is not limited to, an educator, administrator, school nurse, cafeteria worker, custodian, bus driver, athletic coach, advisor to an extracurricular activity or paraprofessional.
- A review of documents and staff interviews indicated that the district has not developed a system for periodic review of discipline data by special populations.
- A review of documents and staff interviews indicated that although the district has designated a coordinator to address complaints from students and employees alleging discrimination based on sex or disability and has developed grievance procedures that are included in the school committee policy manual, the procedures have not been disseminated to staff.
- A review of documents indicated that the district has developed a notice to students 16 and over and their parents which is sent within five days of the student’s tenth consecutive absence and offers at least two dates and times for an exit interview to discuss reasons why the student is permanently leaving school, and describes alternative education programs and services available to the student.
However, document review also indicated that the district does not send annual written notice to former students who have not yet earned their competency determination and who have not transferred to another school to inform them of the availability of publicly funded post–high school academic support programs and to encourage them to participate in those programs.
- A review of documents indicated that although the district has developed written restraint-prevention Massachusetts DESE – Office of Public School Monitoring and behavior support policy and procedures consistent with 603 CMR 46.00 regarding appropriate responses to student behavior that may require immediate intervention, the district’s elementary handbook does not contain the revised restraint procedures.
In addition, materials for school-wide staff training do not incorporate the changes resulting from the amended regulations, including the district’s prevention and behavior support policy, methods of prevention and alternatives to restraint. The materials also include the option for a parent to waive restraint and reporting requirements when written into the Individualized Education Program (IEP), which is not permitted under the amended regulations. A review of documents and staff interviews indicated that the district has identified program staff to serve as school-wide resources for the administration of restraint and provided school-wide resource staff with in-depth training on the use of physical restraint.
- A review of documents and staff interviews indicated that the district does not evaluate all aspects of its K-12 program annually to ensure that all students, regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin, limited English proficiency, sexual orientation, disability, or housing status, have equal access to all programs, including athletics and other extracurricular activities.
English Learner Education
Rating: Partially Implemented
- The documentation submitted by the district indicates that some students have been reclassified as Former English Learners (FELs) before they met minimum exit criteria determined by the Department.
The district’s current reclassification procedures and practices are not in compliance with 603 CMR 14.02 that requires districts to establish exit criteria in accordance with the Department’s guidelines.
- A review of documents indicated that the district has not updated its policies to include the four-year monitoring requirement of FELs.
- Staff interviews and the relevant Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) endorsement data indicated that most core academic teachers assigned to provide sheltered English instruction to English learners hold the SEI Teacher Endorsement, but some do not.
- Since the district did not submit its most recent program evaluation, which was a required document for the review of this criterion, the Department concludes that the district does not have a comprehensive process to evaluate the effectiveness of its English Language Education (ELE) programming in developing students’ English language skills and increasing their ability to participate meaningfully in the district’s educational program.
The DESE team conducted a Coordinated Program Review in Saugus Public Schools during the week of April 30, 2018. It included interviews with staff and parents, time spent observing classroom facilities, and a review of the programs underway in the district.
Each school district and charter school in the state receives a Coordinated Program Review every six years and a mid-cycle special education follow-up visit three years after the Coordinated Program Review.